Going back to where you grew up can be a double edged sword. Some of you may have never left, some of you may have run as soon as you could, and some of you, like me, may have drifted back now and then without really seeing what was there. But heed the warning Thomas Wolfe gives us that "you can't go home again"
In his novel of the same name, Thomas Wolfe's character George Webber says "You can't go back home to your family, back home to your childhood ... back home to a young man's dreams of glory and of fame ... back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory."
On the Birthday Party Trip for Beatrice's mother, we went back to the 'Village' where I grew up. Village you say?? In New Jersey??? YES!!!! The Village of South Orange is tucked into the Northeast corner of NJ, one of the most densely populated areas of the country. But as a kid, this was my idea of a small town. We knew our neighbors, our neighborhood, and most of the rest of the Village. We walked everywhere (even adults). To school, to friends houses, to the town pool, the community center, and the stores.
In my neighborhood we had 2 grocery stores, 2 Deli's, a florist, 2 pharmacies, 2 Kosher butchers, clothing store, candy store (with soda fountain and nickel Cokes), 3 gas stations, a beauty salon, and all within a two block area. No this was not the center of town. In fact this was on the border of the City of Newark, and the Township of Maplewood. It was the bluest of the blue collar sections of the Village (once called 'Pork Hill' due to its proximity to the county 'poor farm' where they raised crops and what else, pigs.). But to me, it was the bestest of places to grow up. My grandparents and 2 aunts lived around the corner, cousins lived next to them. Five blocks in either direction were more cousins. My Grandfather and uncle (his brother) raised tomatoes and veggies in a huge garden. I even had cousins that still lived on a small farm two towns away, right in the middle of a housing development that I never noticed till I was older.
I was the third generation in my family to grow up in the Village. My father was a Captain in the Fire Department. His father owned an electrical store (that new fangled fad). My mom was a secretary and eventually a librarian at Seton Hall University. Oh, did I mention that we lived about a block off of the campus of SHU? Yes we went to sporting events there, and knew the students, professors, priests, and campus well. My mothers father (who had the big garden) owned a taxi cab company, and had a stand at the towns train station.
YES we even had a train station. The Delaware, Lackawanna, &Western Railroad ran right through the middle of the Village, could get you to midtown Manhattan in just 38 minutes on a good day. And that included a ferry boat ride across the Hudson River. More on the Train Station in another post.
Both my parents three blocks away from each other. They were a year apart in school, and went to the same high school I went to. And the scary part was getting a teacher who had taught your parents and cousins (didn't think folks lived that long back then). And believe me, they remembered. I never knew till then what a rabble rouser my father was, but they remembered. The high school athletic fields were at the end of our street. They were our huge playground that sometimes took hours to cross, especially in the many blizzards we had back then (they've shrunk dramatically since then.)
YES, it was a great place to grow up. Good friends, good times, fun things to do. The kind of place that when you reminisce brings a smile to your face.
BUT!!!!!! i just read in the news that no longer will you be allowed to "SMILE" for your drivers license picture in New Jersey. They say it messes up their 'face recognition' software. I think they are just trying to scare us into "Never coming home again". I wonder if Thomas Wolfe is looking down and saying" see, I told ya!!!!!"
Not to worry though, I've been assured that the world famous "Jersey Single Finger Wave" is still allowed.